The Kevin Love Golden State rumor has been talked about every which way throughout the offseason and some considered draft day to be a judgment day of sorts for the trade talks. What we know for certain is that the Golden State Warriors are willing to part ways with David Lee, and that the Timberwolves are insisting Klay Thompson be included. Whether or not the Warriors are willing to part ways with Thompson remains to be seen. For now, it’s safe to assume they do not want to trade Thompson otherwise the deal probably would have happened by now.
It’s reasonable to think that Golden State would have been okay parting ways with Thompson if they received Minnesota’s 13th pick in the draft because they could then find a viable replacement for Thompson, and Doug McDermott or Nik Stauskas were the two names that surfaced as potential draft picks, if available.
The other hiccup was additional salary coming back to the Warriors, which would be J.J. Barea, Kevin Martin, or both. Martin would be a suitable fit offensively but a defensive backcourt with he and Curry would be a nightmare. Not only that, but Martin still has three years and $21.2M remaining on his contract, which would further restrict Golden State’s already tight budget.
Barea, however, would have been a quality addition to the roster. With two years and $9.2M remaining, Barea would have filled in nicely as a backup point guard without putting that much financial strain on the team.
Trade talks, as they often do, hit an impasse with about a week to go until Draft night. Different media members reported different reasons for the talks hitting a snag, with the inclusion of Thompson being fought for by new head coach Steve Kerr and consultant Jerry West. This trade has several moving parts so the 13th pick could have been a deal breaker for Minnesota and/or taking back Martin or Barea could have been a deal breaker for Golden State.
The deal was considered dead, which is really just more about seeing who is going to cave first. With just a couple of days left until Draft night, it seemed like the Warriors might be the team to give in if McDermott or Stauskas were still available with the 13th pick, and they could land that pick in exchange for Thompson.
Draft night was upon us and no word of a deal was anywhere in sight. Neither McDermott nor Stauskas were available when Minnesota went on the clock and no trade happened. We may never know if the Golden State Warriors (or Minnesota) would have pulled the trigger if either player were available, so we can’t pinpoint this part of the deal as the tipping point.
The 13th pick would have been the second best asset coming back to the Warriors, so missing out on it definitely makes any future deal less attractive, unless Minnesota somehow relents on their insistence of receiving Thompson in any deal.
The Timberwolves do deserve some credit for attempting to strong arm their way into a quality deal as opposed to just taking whatever they can get. Minnesota may have been too greedy for their own good though because come trade deadline time, any leverage they think they might have had will be completely gone, and I think that’s where these talks are headed.
The desperate team is more often than not the team that loses a trade so the Golden State Warriors deserve credit for holding their ground, realizing that Minnesota will either have to trade Love for something, or let him walk for nothing. Certainly a deal to send Lee, Harrison Barnes and a future first round pick would be ideal for Golden State, and while that wouldn’t be the best offer Minnesota would receive, it’s really up to Love where he goes.
With the Love trade talks in the rear view for the time being, the Warriors were still looking to get into the Draft. GM Bob Myers has said that he would like to stay out of the luxury tax this year, which means as the roster currently stands, he has about $11M or so in cap space to work with. The two best ways Golden State could improve the roster while still avoiding the luxury tax would be to use some combination of their $9.8M traded player exception they received when they dumped Richard Jefferson (which expires on July 10th) and their $5.3M mid-level exception.
A popular name as of late is former Suns power forward Channing Frye, who just opted out of a final season in Phoenix that would have paid him $6.8M. The most logical fit for the Warriors would be if Frye would be willing to play for a contender at the mid-level exception salary.
Expect Frye to be brought in for a visit to put some pressure on Minnesota that if they don’t agree to Golden State’s terms, they’ll just look elsewhere for a stretch four. This isn’t likely to change any trade talks so looking at Frye realistically, he’d be decent enough value at $5.3M to bring on board.
Ryan Anderson is another stretch 4 who could be an option and while he is a bit of a better rebounder and defender than Frye, is he $3M better? He also would have to be acquired via a trade instead of free agency, so that makes it a little more tricky.
Another option is bringing back Jeremy Lin but at $8.9M, he’d leave less flexibility without some other moves. Dumping Mareese Speights and his $3.5M salary is an option, but Houston wouldn’t take him back because they are trying to dump salary to make room for another big name. With only a 2017 first-round pick to deal, it wouldn’t be wise to part ways with the last Draft-related asset left for some time, so don’t expect much on that front.
You could run down different options for Minnesota just like you can with the Golden State Warriors and it’s apparent that each team’s best option is what the other is offering. That’s why I think in the end, the trade will happen. And yes, I think it includes Thompson.
Thompson has grown into a great player and has shown more defensively than anyone could have ever expected but with the end of his rookie contract looming, he will most certainly command a double-digit salary. With Curry making $11M per year, Thompson wouldn’t seem like such great value anymore if he was making as much as (if not more than) the franchise player.
I’ve always been on the side that teams shouldn’t gut their teams to land a star player (like the New York Knicks) because with just one star and not much depth, you aren’t going to get very far. The Warriors wouldn’t be in that position, however.
Kevin Love is a top-ten player in the league who would be surrounded by nine other All-Stars (Curry, Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bogut) and a host of quality role players. A lineup of Curry, Iguodala, Love, Bogut and whoever the Warriors plug in at shooting guard would be much more formidable than the current lineup of Curry, Thompson, Iguodala, Lee and Bogut because yes, Love is that much of an upgrade over Lee.
As is, the Warriors would likely contend for the fourth or fifth seed but with Love, the second or third seed would be in reach. Especially in the difficult Western Conference, you need all the help you can get.
The Golden State Warriors have a chance to get an elite player who is just now entering his prime. A base of Curry and Love with the other pieces currently in place can legitimately contend for a championship right away and with those two as your cornerstone players, Golden State would be an attractive place to play for future potential players. You do the trade for now, and you also do it for the future.